Gam­ing OK’d for venue in Dolton

Li­cense for hall that’s in same com­plex with as­sisted liv­ing cen­ter

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Zak Koeske

A Dolton ban­quet hall in the same com­plex as a low-in­come se­nior as­sisted-liv­ing cen­ter and a planned chil­dren’s day care cen­ter has been granted a li­cense to in­stall video gam­ing ter­mi­nals.

The Illi­nois Gam­ing Board last week ap­proved a video gam­ing li­cense for Giovanni’s Cater­ing, 1515 E. 154th St., on the sprawl­ing cam­pus of the for­mer Dorch­ester Se­nior Cen­ter. It’s be­tween the se­nior cen­ter and Fun­da­men­tals of Learn­ing Chil­dren’s Academy, a planned day care cen­ter that is en­rolling chil­dren as it awaits li­cen­sure ap­proval fromthe state.

Royal Es­tate Realty owns the com­plex that houses all three en­ti­ties af­ter pur­chas­ing it from the vil­lage last year. It op­er­ates the se­nior cen­ter, now called Royal Es­tates As­sis­tive Liv­ing, and leases out the ban­quet hal­land day care cen­ter to sep­a­rate in­di­vid­u­als, Royal Es­tates ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Bakari Cowan said.

Nei­ther Loren Robin­son, the owner of Giovanni’s, nor Lucky Lin­coln Gam­ing, his li­censed ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tor, re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment on their ap­par­ent plans to in­stall video gam­ing ma­chines on the premises. Lucky Lin­coln has been fac­ing li­cense re­vo­ca­tion for more than two years as a re­sult of mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plinary com­plaints, but is per­mit­ted to con­tinue op­er­at­ing un­til those pro­ceed­ings con­clude, a Gam­ing Board spokesman said.

Jerry Pros­a­pio, a for­mer com­pul­sive gam­bler from Crest­wood who went on to co-found Gam­bling Ex­posed, a min­istry that ed­u­cates oth­ers about the dan­gers of gam­bling ad­dic­tion, ex­pressed se­ri­ous con­cerns about lo­cat­ing video gam­ing ter­mi­nals in such close prox­im­ity to a se­nior cen­ter.

He said Thurs­day that too many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties view video gam­bling as a rev­enue gen­er­a­tor and fail to ap­pre­ci­ate the so­cial costs like ad­dic­tion, bank­ruptcy and crime that gam­ing can bring.

“I sit in rooms with se­niors that have lost their en­tire 401(k) and life sav­ings in less than six months to these ma­chines,” Pros­a­pio said. “I’ve seen 80- to 85-year-old peo­ple cry­ing their eyes out be­cause of get­ting ad­dicted. It’s the most highly ad­dic­tive form of gam­bling, video poker, and once they start it’s just like they can’t stop.”

In 2014, when Dolton still owned the Dorch­ester, it awarded Robin­son’s com­pany a con­tract to con­vert part of the ban­quet hall into a lounge with al­co­hol, food and five video gam­ing ma­chines that were ac­ces­si­ble to res­i­dents of the se­nior cen­ter and the gen­eral pub­lic.

The Illi­nois Gam­ing Board ap­proved a video gam­ing li­cense for Giovanni’s in April 2014, but re­versed course that Novem­ber, cit­ing prob­lems with the cater­ing com­pany’s mu­nic­i­pal liquor li­cense af­ter the Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion raised con­cerns about the ethics of open­ing a mini-casino at a low-in­come se­nior cen­ter.

It was be­lieved to be the first time video gam­ing had been al­lowed at a “sup­port­ive liv­ing fa­cil­ity,” which the state de­fines as a nurs­ing home al­ter­na­tive for low-in­come se­niors that re­ceives Med­i­caid sub­si­dies, the BGA re----

ported at the time.

Be­cause Giovanni’s li­cense only per­mit­ted it to serve al­co­hol dur­ing or­ga­nized cater­ing events, not seven days a week in con­junc­tion with its pro­posed gam­ing hours, the Gam­ing Board ul­ti­mately de­ter­mined the com­pany could not com­ply with a state law that re­quires al­co­hol to be avail­able when­ever gam­ing ma­chines are in op­er­a­tion, the BGA re­ported.

As a re­sult, the Gam­ing Board re­voked Giovanni’s video gam­ing li­cense in Novem­ber 2014 for its fail­ure to com­ply with the Video Gam­ing Act, meet­ing min­utes show.

A Gam­ing Board spokesman said Fri­day that the re­stric­tions on Giovanni’s liquor li­cense were lifted last year af­ter Dolton sold the for­mer Dorch­ester fa­cil­ity, al­low­ing the caterer to legally ob­tain a video gam­ing li­cense.

Gam­ing Board spokesman Joe Miller said the agency was aware of Giovanni’s his­tory at the lo­ca­tion and the ques­tions about its prox­im­ity to the se­nior home and the day care cen­ter, but that the board was statu­to­rily bound by law to grant li­censes when cer­tain re­quire­ments are met.

“The Board granted an ap­pli­ca­tion based on the statu­tory re­quire­ments con­tained in the Video Gam­ing Act,” he said in an email.

Miller di­rected ques­tions about the wis­dom of al­low­ing video gam­ing at the lo­ca­tion to Dolton, since the vil­lage is­sued Giovanni’s the liquor li­cense that al­low edit to ap­ply for a video gam­ing li­cense.

Mayor Ri­ley Rogers ex­pressed no opin­ion on the ethics of the mat­ter, but said the caterer had been li­censed to serve liquor at the for­mer Dorch­ester since long be­fore he be­came mayor in 2013, and that the vil­lage had sim­ply re­newed its li­cense each year.

“Tomy knowl­edge, there have been no mu­nic­i­pal vi­o­la­tions that have oc­curred for us to deny their re­newals,” he said.

Rogers said the se­nior cen­ter’s oper­a­tors had ap­plied for con­struc­tion per­mits and were in the process of clos­ing off di­rect ac­cess be­tween the hous­ing area and the ban­quet hall.

Un­til re­cently, res­i­dents of Royal Es­tates, which has 126 sin­gle-oc­cu­pancy apart­ments, could eas­ily walk from the lobby of the sup­port­ive liv­ing cen­ter down the hall to the ban­quet area where the video gam­ing ter­mi­nals will be lo­cated.

That con­nec­tion will cease to ex­ist in the near fu­ture af­ter Royal Es­tates con­verts that part of the build­ing to of­fice space, Cowan, the cen­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said. Con­struc­tion on the project ap­peared to be un­der­way

Wed­nes­day and the cor­ri­dor that leads to the ban­quet hall was closed.

Once con­struc­tion is com­pleted, se­nior res­i­dents will have to exit the build­ing and walk around to a sep­a­rate en­trance to en­ter the ban­quet hall, Cowan said.

He said he un­der­stood why some might view the in­stal­la­tion of video gam­ing ma­chines in the se­nior cen­ter com­plex as po­ten­tially ex­ploita­tive, but said he had no wor­ries about them.

It might be more of a con­cern if the se­nior cen­ter and ban­quet hall were still in­ter­nally con­nected, Cowan said, but the in­con­ve­nience to res­i­dents posed by now hav­ing to exit the build­ing and walk out­side to en­ter the fu­ture gam­ing area al­layed his con­cerns.

He said it was al­ready com­mon for sup­port­ive liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties like Royal Es­tates to take res­i­dents on trips to nearby casi­nos for en­ter­tain­ment and that he hadn’t re­ceived any com­plaints from res­i­dents about the prospect of video gam­ing in the build­ing.

In fact, Cowan said, many are ex­cited about it.

Some of the fond­est mem­o­ries many lo­cals have of the for­mer Dorch­ester in­volve trips to the bingo hall that once op­er­ated there, he said.

In his es­ti­ma­tion, Cowan said, there’s no real dif­fer­ence be­tween play­ing bingo and sit­ting down at a video gam­ing ter­mi­nal.

“Gam­bling is gam­bling,” he said.

Lisa Dansby, whois in the process open­ing a chil­dren’s day care in the Royal Es­tates com­plex, said she was not aware of any plans to in­stall video gam­ing ma­chines at the nearby ban­quet hall.

She said she didn’t want to com­ment on the pos­si­bil­ity un­til she learned more about the plan, but that it was “def­i­nitely” go­ing to be a con­ver­sa­tion she had with her busi­ness part­ner hus­band.

The day care cen­ter, un­like the se­nior cen­ter, has never shared a di­rect in­te­rior con­nec­tion to the ban­quet hall, Cowan said.

ZAK KOESKE/DAILY SOUTHTOWN

Royal Es­tates As­sis­tive Liv­ing in Dolton, pre­vi­ously known as the Dorch­ester Se­nior Cen­ter, houses a sup­port­ive liv­ing fa­cil­ity, ban­quet hall and a planned day care cen­ter.

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